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British, Irish PMs want early N Ireland resolution

Last Updated: Friday, December 18, 2009 - 13:39

London: The British and Irish prime ministers expressed confidence an impasse on transferring key powers to Northern Ireland can soon be resolved, with only a "limited number of outstanding issues" remaining.

Gordon Brown and his Irish counterpart Brian Cowen held talks Thursday on progress to break the deadlock over transferring control of policing and justice from London to Belfast.

The pair met on the sidelines of the Copenhagen climate change summit on the impasse, which comes as the threat from dissident paramilitary groups opposed to Northern Ireland`s fragile peace process is at its highest for six years.

"The Prime Minister agreed a generous financial settlement in September that will ensure that a devolved Justice Department will have the resources it needs to manage particular financial pressures," they said in a joint statement.

"The financial package will only be available if devolution is completed in the coming months."

The comments are aimed at the main Protestant and Catholic parties, who share power in the province`s devolved assembly, and are at loggerheads over when the powers should be transferred.

They said "significant progress" has already been made and completing the devolution process was needed to sustain confidence in Northern Ireland.

"We have discussed the limited number of outstanding issues with the parties," the statement released by Downing Street late Thursday said.

"We believe that there are no differences incapable of resolution and are optimistic the parties can find early agreement."
Northern Ireland has been largely peaceful since the 1998 Good Friday agreement paved the way to powersharing between the province`s Protestant majority and Catholic minority.
But the killings of two British soldiers and a police officer in March -- the first of their kind in a decade -- and increasing activity by dissidents have highlighted the renewed threat posed by dissident paramilitary groups.

Bureau Report

First Published: Friday, December 18, 2009 - 13:39

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